By Tammy Joyner, Contributing Writer
Clayton County residents will see a raft of quality-of-life amenities introduced throughout the county in 2019
Several libraries, senior centers, and fitness centers are slated to open in the New Year, thanks to voter-approved, sales tax-funded projects.
The Southwest Intergenerational Center and District 4 Recreation Center will round out the half-dozen recreation centers voters envisioned for the county when they approved a special penny tax known as the special-purpose local option sales tax or SPLOST in 2004. Since then, voters approved more SPLOST projects in 2009 and 2015.
“We are excited to get these projects rolling off the assembly line,” said Alex Cohilas, deputy chief operating officer for Clayton County. “We worked really hard last year to fast-forward these projects that were frankly going to take to 2022 and 2023 to build out. We put them on an accelerated pace.”
During the last 14 years, the penny tax has financed building projects, added miles of sidewalks and nature trails, repaved and widened roads, beefed up public safety and countywide technology systems and provided other quality-of-life amenities.
Since 2004, an estimated $300 million has been raised in Clayton from the one-cent special tax. About three-quarters of that money has been spent or earmarked for projects so far, said Clayton County Board of Commission Chairman Jeff Turner.
Here’s how it works: Whenever you buy groceries or make other purchases in Clayton, you pay an eighth-cent sales tax. Half of that tax goes to the state. The remaining tax is dispersed equally – a penny each – for education, keeping the MARTA buses rolling, the cities within Clayton as well as SPLOST.
“Your SPLOST dollars are very important to the community because it allows projects to be built but not out of the county’s fund balance,” Turner said. “If we had to pull it out of the fund balance we’d be depleting our reserves. When that extra penny is collected we’re able to build major projects the citizens agree to. It reassures citizens that their money is going to a specific purpose.”
Cohilas praised the work of the county staff of architects, program managers and designers for delivering “first-class buildings that are very energy-efficient, low maintenance and built with durable materials.”
In this round of SPLOST projects, residents will see “a lot of new looks” for the county,” Cohilas said.
The Southwest Intergenerational Center, for example, will be a combination recreation and senior center with activities for children, parents, and grandparents. The 22-acre complex situated near Jonesboro, Riverdale, and Fayetteville, will have an indoor theater, a natural lake and nature trails.
Like other counties, SPLOST projects virtually ground to a halt in Clayton during the recession a decade ago but has since rebounded as construction reignited throughout metro Atlanta.
The Jim Huie Recreation Center and Steve Lundquist Aquatic Center on Tara Boulevard, as well as the South Clayton Recreation Center on McDonough Road, are a few examples of what your penny tax has produced over the years.
“In any economic strategy, you always want to ensure you have quality services and facilities that businesses will see as a plus to move to your community,” said Detrick Stanford, chief operating officer of Clayton County. “SPLOST will certainly help our ability to attract new businesses to Clayton.”
SPLOST AT A GLANCE: YOUR PENNIES AT WORK
Here’s a look at some SPLOST-funded projects that have been completed
Here’s a look at some SPLOST-funded projects slated to open in 2019
DID YOU KNOW?
Clayton County Public Schools will have an education SPLOST or e-SPLOST in 2019. If voters approve, the proceeds would go to finance more much-needed resources for our schoolchildren. At the top of the list? A state-of-the-art venue in the county where our children can graduate. Many of the graduations to date have been in Atlanta to accommodate attendance.
Photo: Courtesy of Wakefield Beasley & Associates